Former Cover Oregon director says 'all of us' share blame for failures

Former Cover Oregon director says 'all of us' share blame for failures »Play Video
Former Cover Oregon director Rocky King tells On Your Side Investigator Chelsea Kopta Friday, Feb. 28, 2014 that "all of us share in the responsibility" for the failed health exchange website rollout.

SALEM, Ore. – In the two months since he resigned for medical reasons as Cover Oregon's executive director, Rocky King has had some time to reflect on who bears the burden for a health exchange that's never worked as promised.

"I think there's a lot of us that have responsibility for what happened – from Oracle to Cover Oregon to OHA," he told On Your Side Investigator Chelsea Kopta on Friday night.

At the helm of the Oregon Health Authority was chief information officer Carolyn Lawson.

In an Oregonian article Friday, Lawson broke her silence since resigning in December and said she was a scapegoat for Cover Oregon's problems. She pointed the finger at nearly everyone else for the mess that led to the website's embarrassing rollout.

On Friday night, King said he had not heard of Lawson's new accusations, but said he was perplexed at the idea that she would avoid any responsibility. The timeline Lawson gave to The Oregonian is not the way he remembered it.

Lawson shepherded the creation of the Cover Oregon website until, King said, she handed it off to Cover Oregon in May 2013.

"So she had responsibility, and Bruce Goldberg had responsibility for the IT portion of the project up until that time," King said.

Lawson now says she was removed from significant oversight of the exchange project six months earlier in November 2012, leaving Cover Oregon leadership to run the show. That was news to King.

"Their grant didn't end or their contract with the federal government until they turned it over to us in May, so I don't know what she was referring to," he said. "I would be perplexed if that's what she said."

Even if Lawson's statements are true, she was still in charge of two other major state IT projects riddled with their own laundry list of problems, ranging from deadlines and scope to planning.

A November 2012 quality assurance report by state-hired consultant, Maximus, stated 'the overall governance structure ... does not appear to be functioning ... OHA and the (health insurance exchange) project has slipped a number of proposed deadlines. ..."

And perhaps the biggest risk was "the probability of missing the target date is currently an issue."

Even after all those errors, King doesn't blame Lawson alone.

"I just think all of us share in the responsibility for what's happened," he said.

Lawson's claim that she was hands off the Cover Oregon website since November 2012 flies in the face of other actions she took, including testifying about the exchange project in front of a legislative IT committee the very next month.

Full coverage of the troubled Cover Oregon website: